Reality show Casting Producer on what makes a prime candidate

(ABC/Kelsey McNeal)
(ABC/Kelsey McNeal) /

Ever wonder the method to reality show casting madness? Unscripted Casting Producer Alex Stern breaks down what qualities make someone a must-have candidate for a reality dating show.

Is your head still spinning from the bewilderment that was ‘Women Tell All‘ on The Bachelor this season? If you’re wondering how we ended up with such a hot mess of a cast, we have insider knowledge. Hosts Ashley Young and Shea Corrigan have come to your off-season rescue on FanSided’s “Can I Steal You for a Second?” podcast with intel on reality show casting. They sat down with reality TV Casting Producer Alex Stern to get the scoop on what casting departments are truly looking for in a contestant.

While she hasn’t cast The Bachelor specifically, Alex is a seasoned unscripted Casting Producer who has worked on a myriad of reality shows. Her work includes Survivor, Amazing Race, Are You The One?, Married at First Sight, and Big Brother. Bonus point–she cast one of my favorite Big Brother winners ever, Kaycee Clark. Suffice it to say she’s an expert in the field. Here’s her breakdown on what casting is looking for in a premium reality TV contestant.

"What do you see in a person to take them from their everyday life and throw them into that kind of chaotic, televised environment?"

For starters, one must be willing to essentially go along with the program. While they genuinely are looking for normal people, with regular jobs, they seek a necessary eagerness to go out of one’s comfort zone. Content, unsociable introverts such as myself need not apply.

Though the show (sometimes painfully) tends to highlight alarmingly dramatic archetypes, Alex asserts that anyone in the right environment is susceptible, that “every single person, whether they show it or not, has that inner messy, and it’s just that it’s a situation that they’re put in.”

ABC/John Fleenor
ABC/John Fleenor /

Exhibit A.

Of course, reality show casting prefers those willing to go that extra mile, otherwise known as a first-class ticket to Bachelor in Paradise. Specifically, those who are “unabashedly unashamed,” who are willing to bare it all on national television. That said, there’s villains, and then there’s Jed. Fans sometimes wonder whether producers actually care about one’s motives for going on The Bachelor. Rest assured, as the biggest question asked in casting is, “What’s your motivation for wanting to do the show?”

"We’re looking for the answer of, you know, ‘I’ve tried everything, I’ve tried dating. My mom’s hooked me up. I’ve been on Tinder. I’ve been on this, like, I go to meetings, whatever, whatever. I go to therapy to like, find my inner self. And I’m just ready to like, find somebody who is my match, and I’m hoping that this is kind of the next thing.’ And that’s the answer."

Essentially, be genuine and real, with a side of messy tendencies, and you’re likely through (at minimum the first round). Another thing that comes to mind is whether the show actually cares about casting compatible contestants, or those interested in the current lead. Hannah Brown highlighted this on her season. She felt that the guys thought it would be someone else and may have been disappointed (this is also why she kept Luke P. around waaay longer than she should have, though we got the legendary rose podium move out of it).

While it’s a known truth that casting occurs before the lead is even cast, ultimately barring any true matchmaking, Alex confirms they still try to suss out potential compatibility.

"We always want to ask people, of course, what they’re looking for, what their type is. And that’s usually kind of that universal answer – for men if they want like, an over six-feet (sorry guys who are not over six feet), good job, good family life, you know, respects women, that kind of stuff. And then for women, it’s, of course, good family life, whether religion plays a part, and then of course, the, you know, everlasting question of blondes or brunettes…you know, boobs or butt."

I’m glad to see reality show casting is at least brutally transparent. I would pay to receive a spreadsheet of which men have answered “boobs” or “butt.” Truly romantic and critical qualities to seek in a partner. Producers do inquire into more meaningful traits and experiences, such as their worst dating story, or the most romantic thing they’ve ever done, etc. However, it’s trivial and seemingly idiotic icebreakers that are the biggest tell.

"I could ask them what kind of sandwich they like, and it’s the way you answer it that kind of clues me into if you’re going to be good on TV. I don’t really care. I mean, of course, we want to know what you like in a man or woman, but I really I just want to hear that you’re a storyteller. I want to hear that you can speak."

There’s the golden ticket: the ability to be a storyteller. Hopeful applicants for future seasons, start brainstorming your most intricate deli sandwich that will blow casting away.

This podcast episode is honestly jam-packed with juicy details and insight into what’s behind the curtain on reality television. The trio addresses diversity and proper representation, the effect of social media and Instagram followers, and intriguing casting anecdotes – one of them being Dating Naked. I’m sure your imagination can take it from here, but check out the full episode below – it’s a must-listen:

Next. The Bachelorette: Tyler and Hannah reconnect in Florida (again). dark

Are you as unsurprised as I that they actually ask blondes vs. brunettes during reality show casting? Do you think the key to a perfect contestant is their sandwich order? Take a listen and let us know your thoughts!